*WARNING – NOT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED, SQUEAMISH OR THOSE OF DELICATE SENSIBILITIES*
Here in France we benefit from excellent medical treatment, and a very caring doctor. It means that we spend a considerable time travelling to various specialists to make sure that everything is in working order, which is most reassuring.
Earlier this week I was scheduled for a minor unpronounceable-in-any-language procedure to check my heart. It involves inserting a small tube into an artery in either the wrist or groin and injecting fluid through it into the arterial system, so that the X-ray machine can see how the heart is behaving.
Providing all goes well, you are in hospital for one night, and come out the following evening, which it was and I did. The procedure itself isn’t painful, but I cannot say the same for what went before, which reached levels of agony beyond my imagination.
Included in the joining instructions confirming time, date, place and a map is a sheet like this, showing a person of indeterminate gender. The green areas on their arms and nether regions have to be silky smooth and free of fur so that there is no hindrance to the intra-arterial invasion. This can be achieved either by using an electric shaver, or depilation cream, but not a razor that could cause a scratch where infection could set in.
Examination of my wrists and rump satisfied me that there was no need to give these areas any attention, which just left one to be dealt with.
You undertake this preparation at home the evening before admission, so at midnight I unscrewed the cap of the depilation cream and applied it generously, as the instructions instructed. After waiting the recommended five minutes, I checked to see the result.
Zilch. No change. I applied another thick layer, waited 8 minutes this time. Same result. One further effort of 10 minutes – way beyond the recommended time limit, and no visual change but a burning sensation as if somebody was applying a flame thrower, and an alarming redness. I moved on to wax.
Four applications later despite vigorous wrenching and ripping, the result was not a silky smooth, baby’s bottom effect, but more like an old carpet that was worn around the edges but still good in patches, embellished with tiny ruby red pinpricks of blood. I could barely believe that such pain existed and that all my efforts, creams and waxes had been in vain – I could have wept.
Next day, in the ward, a nurse came to visit. He had a shaven head, tattoos, a nose stud and an earring, and the kindest eyes you will ever see. Was everything OK – was I comfortable, too hot, too cold, thirsty, bed too high, too low, anything he could do for me? He checked my wrists and then asked whether my ‘short’ area was prepared. (I assume this must be a French euphemism). I admitted that despite my best efforts it was less than perfect. No problem, he said, one of the female nurses would sort that out. Shortly she arrived and set to work, remarking that she wasn’t surprised that I had had so much difficulty because she wasn’t finding it easy even with electric clippers.
My neighbour in the two-person room was a tiny, chic lady of 78, who was having the same procedure as me, and I heard the nurse asking her if she had undertaken the necessary gardening. No, she said confidently, because the surgeon could use the artery in her wrist, so there was no need. Hélas, replied the nurse, that isn’t always possible, so we have to make certain you are fully prepared. The poor lady let out a low moan.
Ah oui, hélas Madame, we’re all in it together. 🙂
To those who voluntarily undergo Brazilians – I salute you!